Pierra Creta is a bi-annual ski mountaineering event held in the Psiloritis mountain - a ski resort-free zone. It is the southernmost ski race in Europe. Organisers named the event after Pierra Menta, a famous competition at Arêches-Beaufort in France.
Ski mountaineering or skimo is a skiing discipline that involves climbing mountains either on alpine skis or carrying them, and then ski down steep mountainsides.
The event started as an annual event, but in 2015 organisers decided to switch to a bi-annual mode and hold a team race instead of an individual.
In 2014, in its first year, 73 skiers turned up. The well-known French mountaineer Christophe Moulin, who was invited to attend, predicted that, within five years, this would be an event that all of Europe would want to take part in. The latest edition in 2019, attracted 200 participants from 11 different nations.
The race consists of two routes: a skimo race for top athletes (1800m elevation difference with technical passes), and a route B with an indicative altitude difference of 900m.
Teams consist of two or three persons and can be divided into women’s teams or men’s and mixed teams.
Pierra Creta is an alternative model of tourism in Crete, shifting the focus from its sandy beaches to its snow-capped peaks.
What makes the event special, is the fun element. In place of energy bars, organisers make available to all participants local bananas from Arvi, while rakomelo (a mix of raki with honey) replaces energy drinks. The prize, a beer created by a local brewery, could only be consumed by those who manage to use their medal as a bottle opener. The entire Pierra Creta weekend is filled with Cretan culture, food and hospitality.
In previous years and in parallel with the main event, skiing lessons for children were also organised, while in 2019 an International Ski Federation children’s programme, which was a global first for a place that doesn’t have a ski resort, was added.
A special moment from the 2019 edition was the participation of a team from Tromsø, Norway were the northernmost ski race in Europe takes place!
“Crete Arising” is a documentary about ski mountaineering in Crete and Pierra Creta race directed and produced by Constantine Papanicolaou.
Details for the 2021 race and the exact date will be announced next September.